“CONCERNING POPS”

This passage comes from an article about Louis Armstrong by the Swiss jazz historian Johnny Simmen; the article appeared in a 1973 issue of CODA devoted to Louis.  “Herman” is Herman Autrey, the trumpet star of Fats Waller and his Rhythm.

One night, in October 1961, a friend of Herman’s quoted some writer’s opinion about the present-day Louis Armstrong’s stage manners (which he disliked and qualified as being ‘Uncle Tom-ish’) and his playing (which he called ‘uncreative’ and being ‘a mere shadow of the Armstrong of the 20s’).  My wife and I have often spoken of Herman’s reaction which was so impressive that we both haven’t forgotten either his facial expression–which became all threatening and tense–or the words that followed: ‘You better tell this guy to mind his own business and stop talking about things he doesn’t understand!  Louis is the greatest artist and man that I know and as long as he chooses to stay in music, he will be unsurpassed!’ (The mother bear defending her baby bear couldn’t have been more involved than Herman putting things right concerning Pops.)  We realized there and then that as much as Herman loved Fats, Louis Armstrong was even closer and meant even more to him.  A most moving experience.”

Thanks to Ricky Riccardi for finding the source of this quotation, “a most moving experience,” indeed.

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2 responses to ““CONCERNING POPS”

  1. I love the story, it rings true. I knew Pops and Herman very well. No doubt, Herman loved Louis.
    Not to quibble but I’m sure those words aren’t exactly Herman’s. The sentiment is, but those words sure aren’t.
    I find most of the Armstrong critics way off base. Ricky Ricardi sure is on the right path. He actually carefully listens to Louis records and makes intelligent comments and observations.

    Joe Muranyi

  2. Poetic license, my man! (Many jazz musicians of that generation weren’t the most verbally articulate fellows in their speech, although they surely could talk on their horns.)

    And if you’ve noticed, I’ve been writing enthusiastically about your work with the Scandinavian Rhythm Boys . . on CD and on video.

    Yes, most of the people writing about Louis see only one facet of the man or they try to fit him into their own particular ideological box. Reading Teachout’s highly-touted book, I have been thinking, page after page, “Louis is too big for one book.” But if anyone can get Louis’s last twenty-five years (more or less) into a book, Ricky can.

    I’m honored to have you as a reader . . . and I dig Satch, too!

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